Brussels Special Edition: Here’s What’s In Store

(Bloomberg) -- Welcome to the Brussels Edition, Bloomberg’s daily briefing on what matters most in the heart of the European Union.

Next year could bring the end of the world order as we know it. Europe’s economy will weaken, as Mario Draghi turns off the tap of cheap money. The malaise may be exacerbated by a potentially chaotic Brexit and U.S. tariffs on European automotive goods. Firebrand euro-skeptics are projected to make substantial gains in May’s European elections, raising the risk of legislative paralysis and “command by negation.” And our planet keeps burning, meaning that nightmare scenarios, such as a global famine next year aren’t too far-fetched.

The Brussels Edition will break for the holiday season. But before we do, two Christmas presents: a basic jargon-busting dictionary to help you decipher the EU’s cryptic responses to the heightened risks next year, and a review of 2018. If you scroll down, we also have a calendar of all the major EU events through June. We're back on Jan. 7.

Who’s Up

Love-Hate | Support for euro skeptics may be surging in polls, but so is support for the EU and its single currency. How can that be, you may ask. Well, you can’t argue with voters.

Antitrust Fines | Kerching! The bloc’s budget got a nice boost thanks to Google's kind donation of 4.3 billion euros in July.

Mergers | The EU’s competition chief, Margrethe Vestager, says the number of deals this year matches the highest level since 2007, when the body ruled on 402 filings.

Dark Trading | Stock trading in the shadows of European dark pools is alive and well even after MiFID II was introduced to bring more transparency to the market.

Carbon Market | Permits to emit CO2 surged after the EU approved the biggest overhaul of the program they created more than a decade ago to rein in pollution.

Import Curbs | The EU triggered “safeguard'” restrictions on foreign steel to prevent a flood of worldwide shipments after Donald Trump's controversial 25 percent tariff on the metal. The EU is also gearing up to limit imports of rice from Cambodia and Myanmar after Italy requested special protection from an alleged import surge.

Brussels Temperatures | Frequent crisis summits no doubt added to the hot air in Brussels, giving it its warmest summer in 200 years.

Veganism | The EU quarter now has at least two vegan restaurants. Protesting French dairy farmers will no doubt be spraying milk at them someday soon.

Belgian Sports | Belgium’s surprise third place at the soccer World Cup made the country proud. Belgian flags were everywhere, even in the Flemish parts — often less enthusiastic about the black, yellow and red. We ended the year in style: winning the Hockey World Cup.

Second Passports | Brits in Brussels raced to secure EU nationality.  An Irish grandmother?  Five years when Belgium was home? You're in.

Pubs | With more British journalists in Brussels than anyone can remember and months of late-night meetings and summits, the area's hostelries are doing roaring business from hacks looking to file their stories, catch up on gossip or seek solace in a beer mug when yet another story is commissioned about how badly Brexit talks are going.

Who’s Down

Jean-Claude Juncker | When you want to get Poland, Hungary and others to respect the law, you can’t just dismiss EU Parliament and EU Ombudsman protests that your most high-profile appointment was illegal. Also, hair-flipping female employees is not cool.

Facebook | The regulatory climate for Facebook doesn't look good. Vestager wants to look into leaked emails that threatened to cut off data access to a potential rival while the Irish data protection authority starts a GDPR-violation probe.

Online platforms | Once admired, Internet companies are the target of rules and taxes and blamed for fake news.

Summertime | The days of daylight-saving time are numbered. No time for that nonsense.

EU-U.S. Ties | Relations between the two allies have plumbed new lows, with Trump berating Europe on several fronts. He tweeted that an antitrust fine against Google was a sign that the EU was taking “advantage of the U.S.” The EU promised to buy more U.S. soybeans — something it was already doing.

Belgian Politics | Belgium’s brief moment of political stability is over. We’re gonna miss it.

Nuclear Risk | Outages at aging Belgian reactors have raised the risk of power-supply disruptions this winter. Nuclear operator Engie SA said three months ago it would extend outages at its Tihange-2 and 3 reactors until next year, leaving a supply gap.

Copyright Mess | The EU’s copyright legislation has been a hot mess since it was proposed in 2016 but it reached a nadir this year with spamming and lobbying gimmicks from all involved. The legislation is now about whether lawmakers are pro or anti-U.S. tech.

Blocking NS2 | The latest effort by the European Commission to make the extension of the Nord Stream 2 Russian natural gas pipeline unprofitable is stuck as member states remain divided.

Deposit Insurance | After months of talks about euro-area reform, finance ministers embarked on a “roadmap for beginning political negotiations” on a common deposit insurance system, the political equivalent of a ten-foot pole. Adding insult to injury, it didn't even feature in the EU leaders’ statement on the euro area.

Plastic Bags | Bringing fish home in a plastic bag and then bringing that bag home in a fish is what Europe will try to avoid with its new ban on single-use plastics to reduce marine litter.

Jury Out

Brexit After a lot of late nights stretching back to summer 2017, the EU struck a deal on the U.K.’s withdrawal. But without the British Parliament’s support the agreement will be dead, scuppering the two sides’ right to claim success.

Trade | The EU lost a fight to avoid U.S. tariffs on steel and aluminum while keeping at bay threatened levies on cars and auto parts. The outcome of that bigger battle is up in the air as Washington wraps up a probe into whether automotive imports pose a national-security risk.

Italy | After months-long market turmoil stemming from the standoff between Italy’s populist government and Brussels over the country’s controversial budget, a surprising deal was struck at the last minute, preventing a disciplinary process that could have resulted in fines for Rome. Still, the real verdict for Italy will be next year, when the impact of economic policies are felt.

Greece | After eight years of bailouts, drama and defaults, Greece finally threw off its creditors’ shackles this August and is in charge of its economic destiny for the first time in nearly a decade. That’s reason to celebrate, but with high borrowing costs, a mountain of bad loans and an election that could derail the country’s finances, it’s still unclear whether the country’s return to normalcy is robust.

Data Protection | The GDPR spamming didn’t last long, and it was definitely less annoying than cookies notifications — undoubtedly the most irritating and least effective piece of legislation in European history. It’s nice to know they have some teeth to protect our personal data, but the question is whether they’ll actually bite.

Chart of the Year

Brussels Special Edition: Here’s What’s In Store

Even as the public debate in the EU is dominated by hysteria about immigration, Eurostat data show that without immigrants to replenish its ranks, Europe runs the risk of dying off. Every country in the bloc suffers from a sub-replacement fertility rate, meaning that, on average, two parents have fewer than two children. Coupled with longer life expectancy, low fertility rates in Europe and the rest of the developed world present a major challenge to social security, health, and welfare systems.

Your Calendar

  • Jan. 21: Euro-area finance ministers meet in Brussels
  • Jan. 22: EU finance ministers meet in Brussels
  • Feb. 11: Euro-area finance ministers meet in Brussels
  • Feb. 12: EU finance ministers meet in Brussels
  • Feb. 21: Informal meeting of EU trade ministers in Romania
  • March 11: Euro-area finance ministers meet in Brussels
  • March 12: EU finance ministers meet in Brussels
  • March 21-22: Summit of EU heads of state or government in Brussels
  • March 29: Brexit Day (tbc)
  • April 5-6: EU finance ministers and euro-area central bankers meet in Bucharest
  • April 8: EU foreign ministers meet in Luxembourg
  • May 9: Informal Summit of EU leaders in Sibiu, Romania
  • May 16: Euro-area finance ministers meet in Brussels
  • May 17: EU finance ministers meet in Brussels
  • May 28: EU trade ministers meet in Brussels
  • June 13: Euro-area finance ministers meet in Luxembourg
  • June 14: EU finance ministers meet in Luxembourg
  • June 17: EU foreign ministers meet in Luxembourg
  • June 20-21: EU heads of state or government meet in Brussels

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.

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